Art Institute's Ben Kiely adds a Mediterranean touch to braised lamb
When it comes to studying to become a professional chef, passion isn’t enough. According to Ben Kiely, who’s been teaching at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Vancouver since 2009, many students who enroll in the year-long diploma program don’t realize the physical demands of the job and the lifestyle changes it takes to be a chef.
“There are so many foodies these days,” Kiely tells the Georgia Straight in the dining room at Culinaria, the student-run restaurant at AI. “The problem is taking that passion and making a job out of it. You’re going to be working unsociable hours—working 14 or 15 hours a day.…The amount you have to put in is a huge sacrifice on your life. That’s probably a big wake-up call for a lot of people.”
For Kiely, the hardship of life in the kitchen was something he knew about before he started cooking professionally. The Dublin-born chef began his restaurant career working as a dishwasher while still in high school. After graduating from culinary school in England, he toiled away at the prestigious Lanesborough London Hotel and worked for Marco Pierre White’s restaurant group post-graduation before moving to Vancouver with his Canadian wife and becoming a cooking instructor.
“I remember being in culinary school myself and thinking, ‘Wow, I’d love to be an instructor.’ I was one of those geeks who thought that would be a great job,” he says. “Teaching is a really good job for me because I have two young children at home, so the hours work really well.”
While Kiely’s career is steeped in fine dining, he prefers to make simple dishes at home. Braised lamb shoulder is a go-to dish that was inspired by a trip to Provence. Kiely says he enjoys making it here because Vancouverites have access to really good lamb products—particularly from Salt Spring Island—and the dish requires minimal attention while in the oven.
“The beauty of the lamb shoulder is that when you roast anything on the bone, it’s a lot more tender,” he notes. “The lamb is the star of the show, but it’s these summer vegetables that round out the diet.”
To pair with the dish, Kiely says bold, full-bodied Shirazes always go with lamb; however, to make the most of the summer, the chef suggests trying it with a glass of rosé.
Ben Kiely's braised Mediterranean-style lamb shoulder
5 Tbsp (75 mL) olive oil, divided
5 lb (2.27 kg) lamb shoulder, bone in
¼ cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar
2 shallots, peeled and halved
6 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 preserved lemons, rinsed and halved
6 tomatoes on the vine
8 baby zucchini
½ cup (125 mL) Niçoise olives
½ bunch thyme
½ bunch sage
½ bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
½ bunch rosemary
2 Tbsp (30 mL) fennel, white part only diced
2 Tbsp (30 mL) celery, diced
2 Tbsp (30 mL) shallot, diced
1 cup (250 mL) lamb stock (or chicken stock)
arugula leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 300 ° F (150 ° C).
- Rub 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil and vinegar on lamb. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil to the bottom of a medium-sized roasting pan and place lamb in it, fat-side up.
- Cover the roasting pan, place in the oven, and cook for 2½ to 3 hours, or until the centre of the lamb shoulder reaches 145 ° F (60 ° C) to 150 ° F (65 ° C).
- After the lamb has been cooking for about 1½ hours, remove from oven and arrange shallots, garlic, lemons, tomatoes (still attached to the vine), zucchini, and olives around the meat. Add a few sprigs of each herb on top of the lamb and drizzle 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil over top. Return lamb to oven and continue roasting as above.
- When lamb is done, remove roasting pan from oven. Scoop up vegetables and set aside. Transfer lamb onto a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes.
- While the lamb is resting, make the jus. In a small saucepan, add 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil, fennel, celery, shallot, 1 sprig of thyme, and ½ sprig of rosemary. Sauté for 2 minutes before adding stock. Bring liquid to a boil and stir in drippings from roasting pan.
- To serve, place lamb in the centre of a large platter and arrange the vegetables around the meat. Drizzle jus over top and garnish with arugula.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.